Thursday, May 7, 2015

5 Ways to Learn to Cook

I love to cook. I even like to grocery shop. I love to see all the food in the stores. I love to handle the bags of flour and the heads of broccoli. I like to check for broken eggs before I put the carton in my buggy. (Yes, buggy. I'm from the south.) And is there anything better than putting food away and seeing your cabinets and fridge fill up and knowing that you have food for your family? 

This process definitely looks different now that I have three children than it did when I was a newlywed. It's not as calm as it used to be. It's not as fast as it used to be. A lot of the meals I cook aren't the same since our kids have dietary restrictions. 

A reader asked me how I am such a creative cook. That I can tell you: practice. I have cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked. I've cooked for two and I've cooked for forty. I love to cook because I know how to cook. I don't really enjoy doing things that I'm not very good at; that's frustrating instead of relaxing. Maybe you don't like cooking. Maybe you're not very good at cooking but you would like to learn. It's never too late.

I remember sitting on the counter and eating biscuit dough with my mamaw (I had to have been under three at the time). My mom started teaching me to cook when I was really young.  She taught me to grocery shop and plan meals and prep ingredients. I've been cooking for a long time to not be 30 yet. 

(See folks? Not old. But I'm going to rock it out when I am. None of this trying to be pretend to be 17. Who wants to be 17 again for real anyway? Sorry, end of the random side note.)

Maybe you didn't learn to cook when you were barely out of diapers and so you stare into your fridge every day at 5 waiting for something to jump out at you. It's not too late. (Ok, maybe it is for that day. Say it with me- "S-a-n-d-w-i-c-h.") There are some simple ways to get better at cooking. 

1. Ask. Ask your mom, your aunt, your sister-in-law. Ask your best friend, your neighbor with the delicious banana bread. Ask them to show you their specialty. Most people are more than willing to teach you how to make their favorite meal or at least pass along their favorite recipe! 

2. Watch. This has never been easier. Watch Food Network. Yes, call it education. Watch YouTube videos. (Although please find something better than this. Hilarious but not what you are trying to do. Unless your goal is to waste time watching YouTube videos because there are more than just that one. I won't link to them here because I don't want to be party to your YouTube extravaganza.)

3. Read. The Pioneer Woman's cookbooks are hilarious as well as mouth-watering. Read blogs. Joy the Baker has some great posts on cooking basics. You should start with this one on reading recipes.  And yes, you should always read the recipe BEFORE you start cooking. 

4. Collect. Get recipes! Start Pinterest boards. Start a cookbook collection. Write down the recipes your mom and your grandma always make. 

5. Practice. Pick one new recipe a week. Plan to cook four meals a week. You have to actually make something to get better at cooking. 

You can learn to plan meals based on the same ingredients. You can learn how to make an omelet, whip up a roux, and bake raspberry bars. You will learn what tastes good together, how to adapt a recipe for dietary needs, and how to make substitutions. But like with anything else, you have to start small. Try something new. Then try something new the next day. And if it flops-if you overcook the pasta or burn the bread- guess what? You can always order pizza or eat a sandwich. It is not the end of the world. 

Now go cook something. And post your pictures on Instagram and tag me in them so I can see them! (@delighting_days)

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